With the year-end quickly approaching, now is the time to plan ahead to take full advantage of the last couple weeks of December.
Why? This is your last opportunity to make one final push to hit your annual fundraising goals!
And, guess what?
People are super receptive at this time of year.
If you’re mostly quiet, or even just passive, during this period, other organizations will race in to grab your donors’ attention.
Even if your supporters had good intentions, and meant to give when they received that last mailing or email from you, they simply won’t go back and do so unless you remind them. It’s just human nature.
There’s nothing you can do about the fact that every other organization that competes for your donor’s financial support will cram inboxes and screens with every manner of appeal during the end of the year. But you’ve got to get in the game too.
Don’t allow other organizations to crowd you out.
Be active online the last three days of the year.
This is the most important thing you can do, as it’s likely the place you’ll generate a majority of the giving you don’t secure face-to-face.
Charities used to rely on direct mail appeals to secure this philanthropy. Increasingly, donors are waiting until the last minute.
When they get your appeal in the mail they think: “Oh, yeah. I want to give to them.” But since it came in the mail, and there’s no ‘Donate Now’ button they can instantly click, they put the letter and remit envelope aside for later. Often, later doesn’t come. They get busy. One or more times they may fleetingly remember they wanted to send you money, but then they think: “Oh, I’m sure they’ll remind me again before the end of the year.”
Donors are counting on you to help them give during this most generous season of the year.
You may have heard that 30%+ of all charitable giving occurs in December. But it’s even more concentrated than that – especially online!
- 10% of annual giving occurs on the last 3 days of the year.
- 19% of online giving happens in December.
- Of this amount, 20% is received from donors who procrastinate until the last 48 hours of the calendar year.
- Of donors worldwide 54% prefer to give online.
- 69% of the overall U.S. population gives online.
Sadly, you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table unless you put your nonprofit front and center in your donors’ minds.
Year-End Email Content
Think of the last six weeks of the year as a continuous conversation with your supporters.
You’ll want to send a series of multi-channel appeals – direct mail, email and social media – that maintain a consistent theme. Each element of the series re-enforces the next.
Whether you label your appeal internally as ‘Thanksgiving,’ ‘Giving Tuesday,’ ‘December Holiday,’ or ‘Year-end,’ keep in mind your donor’s need to receive a resonant, emotionally compelling message (See ‘Tips for Email Content,’ below).
Create a timeline for all of your communications. Consider which stories you’ll tell, when and where. Which fundraising offers you’ll make, when and where. And which specific asks your donors will receive from you, when and where.
Year-End Email Schedule
Most nonprofits don’t send enough email. Plan to send enough online appeals to maximize your chances (three between December 26 and January 31 is recommended, with two to four additional in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas).
If you’ve been focusing on your snail mail appeal and thinking of email as an afterthought, this is the year to re-think your strategy. Per the Global Trends in Giving Report Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all prefer to give online and digital communications significantly influence their giving. Baby Boomers are the generation most likely to give as a result of direct mail/post (18%), but overall, all generations are becoming more homogeneous and tech-based in their giving habits.
Your email appeals should support your mail appeals and vice-versa. It’s ideal to use similar design, graphics and language to maintain consistency. But emails are briefer and require some special touches. Get tips for success here.
Focus especially on December 31st.
For at least the past decade, December 31st has been the most lucrative day of the year for charities.
And, naturally, it’s mostly concentrated online between noon and 7:00 pm.
Procrastinators know this is their last chance:
- To grab a tax deduction.
- To act on their generous impulses/do a good deed before the year closes.
- To fulfill the annual pledge they may have already made to you.
Some year-end givers will go to your website on their own. Others will respond when they receive your email inviting them to give.
You want to make giving as convenient as possible!
December 31 Email Schedule + Support Channels
Make sure you’ve got your donors covered!
Besides your email itself, you’ll want to make sure your donor can easily give to you wherever they happen to encounter you on this last giving day of the year.
- Include a link to your online donation page on social media.
- Include a voicemail with clear instructions for making donations on your main reception line.
- Include a voicemail with clear instructions for making donations on your personal office phone line.
- Include clear instructions for making donations in your email signature.
8 Tips for Year-End Email Content
You absolutely must have a compelling reason for people to support you – right now. You might think this would go without saying, but far too many nonprofits send out completely forgettable appeals that say things like “Please support our organization. We can’t afford to run programs without you.” Yawn. Always ask: What’s in this for the donor? How do they benefit by giving here? How can we demonstrate we’re relevant to their lives? To what they’re thinking about and caring about?
1. Don’t Forget to Tell an Emotional Story
Stories sell, statistics tell. People are wired to be receptive to storytelling, and similarly wired to put up their dukes to refute data. You don’t want to put your donors into a defensive posture! Don’t regale them with how many folks are wallowing in misery. Rather, show them one person they can realistically imagine helping.
2. Depict the Enemy to Tap into Powerful Negative Emotions
Our lizard brain (“fight or flight” part) is wired to help us defeat our enemies. Make sure your appeal lays out the enemy your nonprofit, and emphatically your donor, seeks to defeat. Is it hunger? Injustice? Disease? Illiteracy? Poverty? Abuse? Addiction? Cruelty? Apathy? You need to key into what the donor fears will happen if you’re unable to execute your mission; otherwise, you’ll fail to grab their attention. What, fundamentally, are you fighting for?
3. Make the Donor the Hero
Use YOU repeatedly. “You make it happen.” “Without you, Jimmy will go to sleep with a rumbling tummy.” “The water won’t be fit to drink next year, unless you help.” Make the appeal about what the donor can accomplish, not what your organization can do. Donors give through you, not to you. Get inside your donor’s head and think about the person they’d like to see when they look in the mirror. Help them be the hero who gives your story a happy ending.
“We support a charity … because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.”
— Seth Godin
4. Make it Easy for Donors to Give in the Moment
Create a branded online donation page and build a link to this page from your email and social media appeals. Make sure this page is designed to reinforce the impact of the donation being requested by including a compelling video or imagery. If donors are taken to a generic donation landing page, they may be confused and may not complete the transaction. If you reiterate your campaign message, and then give clear options for giving, you’ll make your donors comfortable and confident – and they may even increase their gift amount! Consider the following:
- Suggested donation amounts. If you include the most commonly-selected donation amounts on your page and allow contributors to select them quickly, supporters tend to give larger gifts than they do if they don’t see suggested amounts.
- Recurring gift opt-in. Always include an option for donors to set up a recurring gift. Research shows recurring givers are retained at a rate of 80-90% vs. an overall retention rate of just 46% for one-time givers.
- Offset processing costs. Give donors an option to offset the processing costs of their donation. Surprisingly, research shows when donors are offered this as an option, they will choose to cover transaction fees 55-60% of the time. If this option is on by default, 75 to 85% of donors will cover transaction fees.
5. Create Impactful Call-to-Actions
If you have a challenge or matching gift program, use this to re-enforce the benefit of giving now (e.g., “Every gift made before December 31st will be doubled!)
Make your calls to action as specific as possible, clarifying the project(s) to which the gift will be allocated and the amount that will make the requested outcome happen. Don’t ask for “a gift of whatever you can manage” because donors prefer to know how much you really need and expect from them. No one likes to guess. Giving should feel good, and donors don’t want to worry you’ll think they’re “cheap” or a “chump.”
6. Use a Multi-Channel Strategy to Expand Your Reach
You’re unlikely to reach your year-end fundraising goal through email alone. Open rates average 26% or less. So… while you absolutely must engage in digital fundraising with so many people online (and preferring to give online),you must do more than that.
Tom Ahern recently asked, and answered, the question “Digital or print?”
“For now, you have to do both, if you want to maximize income and impact. We are in a transition period. Multichannel communications are the rule for now and the foreseeable future (at least as I foresee it). In 2018, Mark Phillips, Bluefrog’s founder, shared data showing the bending 7-year trend: purely “offline” donors (i.e., they did not make their gifts digitally) were decreasing (although at 89.4%, they were still the vast majority); online donors were increasing (almost doubling in number in the past three years); and “multichannel” donors were becoming a new normal.
What’s multichannel? Someone gets a direct mail appeal, which prompts them to make a gift … but they make that gift online. Or someone sees a text-to-give poster in the Tube … and takes action via their mobile. I.e., print and digital working together.”
7. Inform Donors about Your Campaign Progress
Your supporters want you succeed, so it’s important to let them know how close you are to your goal. This is why many organizations will successfully use a live fundraising thermometer with year-end emails. Get some tips on how to use a thermometer effectively here.
8. Plan Ahead to Make Your Email Thank You Prompt, Personal and Meaningful
Honestly, there’s little point in investing so much time into fundraising if you’ve no plan in place to get a second gift. So consider your thank you email part and parcel of your campaign. Don’t wait until you begin receiving gifts to write it. Don’t delay for weeks to send it. In the digital age we’re in, donors expect to hear back from you immediately.
I also recommend you send a subsequent thank you, either by mail or email, to report on the results of the total campaign. You really can’t say thank you too much. It establishes trust, the foundation of all lasting relationships, and it simply makes donors feel good. If you don’t make them feel good, they’re unlikely to give again.
Make it a December to Remember
The stakes are high.
The competition is fierce.
Yet people are feeling in a generous and giving mood.
Your objective: Assure you ‘cash in’ during the final month of the year when such a large percentage of annual giving occurs – with the big spike coming in the final few days.
Your challenge: Rethink what you’ve always done and take a holistic look at year-end giving strategies across all channels.
Make your hard work do double and triple duty. Don’t waste all that thought and energy you put into your mail appeal. Reinforce and leverage your efforts by spreading your message through multiple channels. This will maximize your chances prospective donors will notice and act on your appeal. People today are more (or less) responsive depending on the way you connect with them. Some check their email inbox frequently, others are more likely to notice your appeal via your tweet or Facebook post. Some may decide to give based on your mailed appeal letter, but might wait to act until they’re reminded via email. So plan ahead to include campaign messaging on several different channels. It strengthens your overall effort when you include similar campaign theme, messaging, images and graphics from now through the end of the calendar year.
Don’t run out of steam at the end. It counts for a lot!